I believe everything in life is a relationship; social, intimate, community, career, family, God (creator/universe) and self… yes, self! I’ll save ‘self’ for another day and time. Here’s a story about my relationship with God …and death. As a mom who buried my ﬁrst born child, my relationship with God and death has known bitterness.
Thinking of my own childhood, I realize I watched many shows that evoked a sense of wonder and adventure of the beyond like Star Trek and Voyage to the Bottom the Sea. I would watch and fantasize about what else is unknown and waiting to be discovered. The reality was, I was a shy child who didn’t venture, explore or question anything, but rather I complied with everything.
Several years ago, I selected The Shack for my book club to read. I had read it previously, and was excited to share it with everyone I cared about. Why was I so passionate about this book? Because I had an awakening and an amazing spirit connection while reading. A sense of wonder was evoked like nothing before, and it became an adventure for me to explore and question. And this time, I did.
Now, I’m not going to kid you – my book club discussion revealed both concurrence and controversy, delight and disdain. Our discussions ranged from ideologies of atheist to agnostic to ﬁrst and second generation Catholic ideologies – and everything in between. But the climate changed like a summer day in Montreal when the author, William Paul Young, phoned my house during our book club meeting.
You see, I had written to Mr. Young telling him the impact his book had on me personally. I shared with him that my father had passed away a few years prior in the home he shared with my mother in Ashville, Alabama, shortly before my family and I had relocated to Montreal, Quebec for my husband’s career. I told Mr. Young that I missed my father terribly, that I had worried about him experiencing peace, and that I had a dream (or was it a visitation?) of my father in which he spoke to me from what I perceived as ‘heaven’. All Daddy said was, ‘It’s not what we thought.” I longed for more from him, but there was nothing else. I begged him not to go, to tell me what is it like? What do you mean? Don’t leave! But he smiled at me in a way that communicated it would be for me to ﬁnd out.
The dream was so beautiful – and peaceful. The imagery was vivid and the colours intense and saturated. I recall a ﬁeld littered with ﬂowers of many varieties, and a cattail bordered pond with steps ascending from beneath the water to the gazebo where my father and others were conversing, sharing and seemingly studying in fellowship. The sky – the sky was a canvas of strokes of blue and white and violet and apricot.
Daddy was dressed in a white suit and tie, looking vibrant and handsome. He simply turned from them toward me to speak this one sentence. This one sentence for which I would search and long for meaning for the next two years.
As I read The Shack for the ﬁrst time, it had been two years since my father’s passing. About halfway through, I began crying. Not from sadness, but from understanding. This – this is exactly what my father had meant! The clarity was sudden and lightning quick. There was nothing but pure certainty in my gut and my soul.
I couldn’t get to Chapters, the local bookstore, fast enough! I bought copies for my mom, my husband, my kids, and others. I gave copies as gifts and was anxious to discuss it with them. In my state of elation, I wanted everyone I cared about to know what God and heaven is really like, and, and, and, and, and!!!!
I was not met with the same enthusiasm. Just like the book club members, some read it like any novel. And that was all it was to them. A story. There was no awakening or soul-ﬁlled insight or peace or connection. There were no discussions about Daddy ‘visiting’ me with this message from the other side. No one whom I had shared it with were anxious to talk about their thoughts. There was no ‘meaning’ for them. While my inclination was to retreat and agree with those around me – to comply that it was just a good read – I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. There was no turning back. I continued my journey of being open to what spirit truly is, and redeemed myself from the fundamentalist beliefs of my southern culture and Baptist upbringing. I
found God, and gained that personal relationship that had eluded my comprehension.
So, now I am one who claims spirituality over religion. I recognize the foundation of my beliefs comes from my education at home, church and school. Religion was the primary path to my current state of understanding. My experiences have taken me beyond any mold however, and my relationship with my creator whom I consider to be God, is ‘brilliant’, as my British friends would say. I ﬁnd it very freeing and more than words in a hymn in knowing death is not the end. It is merely a transition that we will all experience.
While I maintain the desire for others to know Him (or Her as The Shack suggests) in the same way that I have come to know Him, I also understand that each must ﬁnd Him/Her in their own shack, in their own time.
Turns out I am an adventurer and explorer of the beyond. I am one to discover and wonder! Thank you, Mr. Young, for writing your thoughts on God. Thank you for calling my book club in Montreal as you drove to a women’s prison somewhere on in the paciﬁc northwest to share your thoughts and story with them. Thank you for planting seeds of inspiration and curiosity in myself and my friends. Congratulations, Mr. Young, on your book becoming a motion picture. May you – and my Daddy – reach many hearts with it’s message